ST. LOUIS — A show of hands, please: Raise your hand if you saw the signing of Carlo Colaiacovo coming.
Nobody? Hello? Bueller? Bueller?
Didn’t think so. Colaiacovo didn’t see it coming, either.
“I never thought returning to St. Louis was a possibility with seven defensemen under contract,” Colaiacovo says.
But then one of the seven got hurt. Jordan Leopold went down with a right hand injury Nov. 7 that required surgery
this past Wednesday. Leopold is expected to miss a minimum of two months.
All of a sudden a light went on for Colaiacovo, who had spent parts of four seasons with the Blues from 2008-2012.
“When news broke of Leopold suffering an injury, I knew this was where I wanted to be,” Colaiacovo says.
The signing of Colaiacovo came together rather quickly. A series of conversations Monday led to an agreement Tuesday. Once his immigration paperwork from Canada was completed, Colaiacovo was on the ice practicing with the Blues on Thursday.
Colaiacovo played last season for the Detroit Red Wings, who bought out his 2013-14 contract. He had been in Toronto skating daily with the Mississauga
Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League. He says he feels like he’s in good
shape and has been able to maintain his legs since the majority of
NHL players left Toronto for NHL training camps in early September.
“He looks fluid and in shape,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock says of the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder.
That will be necessary for Colaiacovo to contribute to this team. Defensemen who play under Hitchcock must be able to use their feet and move the puck. The Blues are a big, heavy team, and their ability to skate and apply
backside pressure in the neutral zone makes life difficult on the
opposition. “What separates us is our checking,” Hitchcock says.
How Colaiacovo will be used remains to be seen.
“He gives us some depth,” Hitchcock says. “He’s played with Alex Pietrangelo in the past, so he’ll give us some options. Assistant coach Brad Shaw knows him real well.”
Colaiacovo, 30, who played about a season and a half with Pietrangelo, can also play the power play if needed. He fills a hole on the left side Leopold has occupied much of the season. But his ice time will be affected by the presence of Ian Cole, who is getting an opportunity to show he can play every night with Leopold out.
The next step will be to get Colaiacovo involved in some battle drills to get a better idea of his readiness to go. With a busy game schedule this month, practice time is limited. Colaiacovo was one of only four players on the ice Friday morning.
The timing worked out perfectly for Colaiacovo, and the Blues are hopeful they’re saying the same thing several weeks down the road. The 2001 first-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs was close to signing with an Eastern Conference team just before agreeing to a pro-rated $550,000 contract with St. Louis. His deal comes with bonuses he can earn through games played.
Injured forward Magnus Paajarvi is inching his way back from an upper-body injury suffered Oct. 26 in Nashville. He participated in battle drills in back-to-back days this past week and says he could be ready to play sometime during the upcoming three-game road trip.
Alexander Steen is fine after suffering what appeared to be a minor hand injury during Thursday’s 7-3 win over Colorado. Steen scored twice to increase his league-leading total to 16. His line of David Backes and T.J. Oshie combined for nine points and a plus-7 rating.
The Blues scored two more power-play goals to increase their league-best power-play percentage to 26.2 percent. Ken Hitchcock said Friday the team has scored 10 power-play goals off of won faceoffs this season.
You can follow Andy Strickland on Twitter at @andystrickland or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also writes about the Blues and the NHL at truehockey.com.